Paris Fintech Forum ended a five-year run in January 2020, with founder Laurent Nizri (right) leaving fans on a cliffhanger. Now you can relive the last epic instalment with a special online edition, including all 150 panel debates and interviews. Hannah Duncan tuned in for her fintech (Net)fix.
Organised by the insanely well-connected Laurent Nizri, the Forumhas been our must-attend, red carpet industry event for the past five years. Anybody who’s anybody had to be there. It’s brought together the best of the best and seen more unicorns than Harry Potter strolling through the Forbidden Forest. Strangely, it wasn’t the impact of COVID-19 that brought it to a close, though; the decision had been made some months previously because, after five critically-acclaimed shows, the last thing Nizri wanted was for it to slump in the ratings.
“I have a big ego,” he admits. “I only do the best. If I keep going for another five years, it will get boring. There needs to be a different PFF, but we only want to come back if it will be meaningful. So, until further notice, my interview with serial fintech entrepreneur and former CEO of LendingClub, Renaud Laplanche (see our review below), was my last.”
To our final question, though, “Is this the end of the PFF journey?”, he replies: “I am an entrepreneur, an end does not really exist, it is only the beginning of something else. Stay tuned!”
As the credits fade on the Forum as we’ve known and loved it, the good news is you can now binge watch the final edition. For a fraction of the price of a ticket, whether you’re already a fan or just curious to see what the fuss has been about, you can access all 150 recordings of every panel session online, including the general discussion on the main stage and other tracks with titles like The Disrupted Bank, Alternative Finance, Payment Summit, Insurtech, Regulation for the Future, Wealth & Investment At The Digital Age, Money Money Money, ID & Trust, and Women In Finance. There’s also more digital drama in the pitch sessions.
A €120 subscription gets you video-on-demand access until January 2021. Go to www.parisfintechforum.com/videos2020. Diamond ticket holders for the 2020 show enjoy a free pass.
So, if you’ve exhausted Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney too, microwave the popcorn and settle back as we count down our top five PFF moments to enjoy.
5 – Bitter endings and fresh beginnings: the heartache of being a fintech founder with Renaud Laplanche
One of moderator Laurent Nizri’s all-time favourite talks, one of the godfathers of fintech, Renaud Laplanche, discusses his love affair with the industry, from pioneering the idea of ‘lending to strangers on the internet’ with LendingClub to its grand initial public offering (IPO) and the baby blues he suffered after leaving his prized business. “I love this video because we had a really frank discussion,” says Nizri. “You can find a CEO talking about his company on any online video, but here we go in-depth about what it’s really like. This interview summarises everything that the PFF
was about: sharing and caring for the good of the industry.”
Title: Fireside chat with a serial fintech entrepreneur
Starring: Renaud Laplanche
– CEO, Upgrade (US)
4 – Sophie Blakstad steals the show with herincredible work in Niger
We love Sophie Blakstad’s powerful contribution to this four-corner debate on mission-focussed fintech, which gets to the very heart of what it means to be ‘good’. We were blown away by her clear and passionate message about talented entrepreneurs who operate businesses in rural Africa, many without even access to mains power. Moderated by our very own Ali Paterson, he comments: “Sophie is an absolutely badass. So cool and one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen.” Viewed by many as the most important session of the day, this is a ‘must watch’.
Title: Fintech For Good
David Reiling – CEO, Sunrise Banks (US)
Sophie Blakstad – CEO, Hiveonline (DK)
Emmalyn Shaw – Managing Partner, Flourish Ventures (US)
Alexandre Mars – CEO, Epic Foundation (FR)
3 – A-listers Mastercard, Western Union and the European Banking Federation in a career-defining PFF epic
“Since day one, I’d wanted PFF to be the Davos of digital finance. When we did this panel, I knew we’d made it. This was a Davos session,” says Nizri. We’d agree. We love this video because it shows three veteran operators being refreshingly open on some difficult topics, including customer trust, gender, race, connectivity and sustainability. Stand out performances all round. Highlights include Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek explaining what fintech taught him, and executive vice chair of Mastercard Ann Cairns passionately firing out compelling statistics on financially underserved women.
Title: Cooperation In Finance Industry At Digital Age
Starring: Ann Cairns – Mastercard Executive Vice Chair
Wim Mijs – CEO European Banking Federation
Hikmet Ersek – CEO Western Union
2 – 11:FS’ Jason Bates challenges the challengers
If this panel were a Nineties pop group, they could be called ‘The NEO CEOs’, but that’s probably about all they’d have in common. With frank and fresh views on what it means to be a challenger bank, they have wonderfully different motivations and visions. 11:FS’ Jason Bates is a demanding moderator who brings out clashing perspectives and contrasting ideas. Asking seemingly innocent questions like ‘what is a neo bank?’, before disagreeing with all of them, is exactly why we love him! Bates ploughs on, digging around these cheerful challengers’ psyches, like a fintech badger: provocatively suggesting that they’re no different to incumbents and pressing them on their USPs. There are some stand-out speakers in this panel. A highlight for us is Diana Brondel, CEO of Xaalys, talking about the need for financial literacy from childhood. This is a brilliant insight into the diversity of neo banks, although they do seem to agree on one crucial thing… no spoilers, we’ll let you discover it for yourself.
Title: Neo Bank Reloaded
Starring: Diana Brondel – CEO Xaalys
Marko Wenthin – CEO Penta
Norris Koppel – CEO Monese
Michal Smida – CEO Twisto
1 – Kiss and tell: what it’s really like to partner with a bank
This is unmissable viewing for any fintech considering a bank partnership. It reunites moderator Nizri with two calibre fintech founders. Clearly on familiar territory, he starts the interview with a cheeky French quote about idiots and teasingly refers to Kantox as a mosquito compared to a large bank. We love the frank friendliness of this little ensemble. Watching them feels less like observing an on-stage panel and more like we’re eavesdropping on an intriguing conversation… which is exactly how panels should be. The participants are bold and honest as they get real about why partnerships with banks can be slow, controlling or too compliance-heavy. Quite an eye-opener.
Title: Working With A Bank, Let’s Speak The Truth
Starring: Kathryn Petralia – Co-founder & President Kabbage;
Philippe Gelis – Co-founder & CEO Kantox
When we asked Laurent Nizri what his all-time favourite interview was, he instantly went back to a 2019 talk that featured a seriously impressive panel.
“It was by far the most stressful interview I ever did,” recalls Nizri. “And I’ve done more than 300 of these, so I don’t get nervous. But being on this stage, I remember the adrenaline of it all, and I loved it.” Who was sitting on the comfy chairs? Christine Lagarde, then MD of the International Monetary Fund, Kathryn Petralia, president of Kabbage, Carlos Torres Vila, group executive chairman of BBVA, and Stefan Ingves, governor of Sweden’s Sveriges Riksbank. Characteristically pristine and precise, Lagarde talked, among other things, of how fintech can help end violence towards women and the effect of deep-rooted cultures on data sharing. It’s a masterful performance. With more than 30,000 views on YouTube, this video has become a piece of fintech history.
Look out for another Nizri ratings winner – The Fintech Club online event. This time, the focus will be exclusively on the fizzing fin and tech scene in France.